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Hands-on: Polar’s M430 GPS watch with optical HR

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Today Polar announced their latest wearable, the M430.  This unit follows in the footsteps of the popular M400 by adding in an optical heart rate sensor as well as a handful of other small (but desired) features.  While this watch lineage has previously been somewhat running focused, it actually supports a number of sports – and is one of the few watches out there to enable the optical HR sensor while doing swimming.

I’ve had a beta unit for a short period of time, so just enough to get in a workout and play with some of the features to see how it handles.  First though, I’ll talk about the specifics of what’s new (there are some interesting tidbits in there), and then we’ll head out for a run to see what the accuracy of both the GPS and optical HR looks like.

Note that the unboxing ceremony will have to wait till a final release in May, since this just came in a plain mini Ziploc bag that said ‘DC Rainmaker” on it. Would have made for a short unboxing video.

But fear not – there is still a video to be had! I put together this overview video, which includes everything you need to know about the M430, along with some first run details:

Didn’t want to watch the video? No worries, we’ll continue on with text and photos.

The Tech Details:

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As noted at the start, the goal of the M430 was to take the M400 and slightly modernize it.  Part of that was, of course, adding the optical HR sensor, but there’s also a lot of smaller tweaks that have been made based on feedback to the M400.  And in fairness to the M400, it’s received a boatload of firmware updates and new features since it was launched.  For example things like smartphone notifications, better activity/sleep tracking, and so on.  It definitely wasn’t an ignored product since its launch three years ago this summer.

Still, there are differences, many of them hardware focused.  Here’s the line-up of changes compared to the M400:

Added optical HR sensor: Polar believes this 6-LED sensor is their most accurate to date
Added vibration capability (alerts): This does however replace audio alerts, which go away
Slightly increased battery: Mostly to maintain battery life with added optical HR sensor
Added new low-power GPS modes: These enable the unit to get up to 30 hours of GPS-on battery time
– High Accuracy Mode: 1-Second Recording Mode: Plots a GPS point every second, HR is every second too
– Medium Accuracy Recording Mode: Plots a GPS point every 30 seconds, HR is every second still
– Low Power Recording Mode: Plots a GPS point every 60 seconds, HR is every second still
Changed the wrist strap design: This was to improve optical HR accuracy by reducing weight and increasing tightness.
Added new watch faces: These can be changed in the menus to float your boat
Enabled Fitness Test with optical HR sensor: This is pretty rare in the industry
Added new sleep algorithms: This will give additional data in the Polar Flow app
Firmware Updates Available via Bluetooth Smart: This unit needs no desktop computer at all.
Added Stopwatch functionality: Pretty straightforward I think.
New connector: This new connector replaces the micro-USB used previously that was a support nightmare

Phew…there ya go!  Now as you can kinda see, I’ve skipped over all the basics of most GPS smart watches these days.  So yes, it does smartphone notifications (from any app, not just limited to texts), and yet it does activity and sleep tracking too.  You’ll get all these details on the mobile app after syncing wirelessly:

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I want to dive into a few things in a little more depth though, starting with the optical HR sensor.  The sensor is used during workouts to capture your heart rate.  Like many watches out there, it’ll enable the sensor once you select a sport mode and usually takes just a few seconds to ‘lock’ onto your heart rate:

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Once in sport mode it’ll track and record your heart rate throughout the activity.  However, outside of sport mode there isn’t any form of 24×7 HR recording like many other products in the marketplace today.  This is definitely a bit of a gap compared to all of the competitive offerings, though Polar says it’s coming in Q3.

Polar does however have the option to go into a ‘My Heart Rate’ menu and check your heart rate.  But this data isn’t recorded anywhere within the platform (app or web).  It’s just a fart in the wind thing – it goes away as soon as you close the option.

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You’ll have noticed that new wrist band.  It’s got some slight tweaks for two reasons.  First is that by introducing the holes in it, they’ve reduced the weight over the previous band, which was kinda heavy.  That helps with optical HR sensor accuracy since less weight means less bounce of the watch.  And second, the band material is much more ‘stretchy’ than previous, allowing you to get a snugger fit – which also increases accuracy by minimizing outside light getting into the sensor.

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The next notable feature is that new lower-power GPS mode, which can extend the GPS-on battery life to 30 hours.  This is pretty unusual to see in a mid-range or budget GPS watch, with these sorts of modes generally saved for much more expensive units (i.e. $400+).  Albeit, we did see one with TomTom’s new Adventurer watch last year.

And just to be clear, when we say ‘GPS-on battery life to 30 hours’, that’s very different than the standby regular watch mode which is weeks (20 days to be precise).  The way this new extended GPS mode works is by selecting one of three GPS options within any given sport.  Since it’s sport-specific, it allows you to potentially have something like hiking have a much reduced GPS recording interval.  Polar notes that there isn’t a huge difference in battery life between the every 30-second and every 60-second option.  Also, in all options the optical HR sensor is recording constantly.

DSC_9812 DSC_9811

A much needed change was to swap out that charging/sync port on the back.  Polar certainly had good intentions with the standard micro-USB connector on the M400, but it became the bane of their existence.  Over time corrosion occurred, as did other failures.  Polar redesigned the port situation at least twice, and even settled on removing the port cap altogether.  While companies have used internally waterproof micro and mini-USB ports for years in sport devices, most of the time that was something like a bike computer which rarely went fully underwater (or more importantly in salt water or with lots of sweat in the port).  Whereas the M400 was subject to all of that.  So that’s all been resolved on the M430 with this new port design, which is waterproof to 30-meters:

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The design looks very similar to that of the Fitbit Surge GPS.  And remember I’m the last person to want a proprietary port in anything, but watches are really the best place for non-standardization to occur.  No matter how many promises USB port component companies/manufacturers try to make when selling these pieces to watch makers, they all end up sucking.  The micro-USB/mini-USB/etc port just wasn’t designed to deal with water getting in there and sitting there causing corrosion.

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Speaking of water activities and swimming, as noted earlier the optical HR on the M430 can indeed be enabled during a pool or ocean swim.  Keep in mind though that neither will give swim distance.  Instead, it’s just your heart rate and time during that activity.  Just like the M430 doesn’t have a multisport mode either, so it’s not a triathlon watch nor a replacement for the V800 (which does have that mode).

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And while you can use the new Polar H10 HR strap with it, it doesn’t have support for the analog heart rate signal from a strap underwater, nor the ability to transfer stored/recorded activities from the Polar H10.  For that, you’d need to use the Polar Beat app on your mobile phone.

As noted earlier this unit can do all firmware updates via Bluetooth Smart.  Previously with the M400 you had to connect to your computer to get those updates.  The only thing that you’d ever need a desktop browser for is if you wanted to setup training plans.  The web-page for that is a bit wonky on a mobile app, so you’d want to do that on a desktop computer (anywhere), and then you can use the Polar Flow mobile app to sync those as normal.  So if one lacked a desktop computer at home but had a desktop browser at work, that’s more than sufficient to choose the training plan you want.

And training plans is a big differentiator when it comes to the Polar M400/M430 compared to other watches in this price range.  Most other sub-$250 watches don’t have structured workouts and training plans on them.  Whereas the Polar M430 does.  That means that you can not only find a structured training plan leading up to a certain event, but you can then download all of the workouts to your watch where it’ll guide you through each workout step by step.

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Most other sub-$250 watches simply have a basic interval mode (if that), and that’s it.  Additionally, most other sub-$250 watches don’t enable a lot of customization of the data fields, whereas the M430 gives significant customization of data pages and fields, allowing you to tweak it however you’d like via either mobile app or desktop app:

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And finally, most other sub-$250 watches don’t give much feedback to you when it comes to the post-workout summaries.  Most will just give you the stats (i.e. distance/time/etc…), whereas the M430 will actually give you a fair bit more related to how that specific workout benefited you.  That’s something that’s always been a bit of Polar’s focus area, and it continues here as well:

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With all that background, let’s head out for a bit of a run.

A First Run:

Ok, with everything all covered I decided to knock out a short 5K run.  I often use this particular route for initial runs with watches, since it’s got a bit of everything.  Some open areas, some tree coverage, some taller buildings, a lot of weaving, a few bridges…all good things to spot GPS accuracy on.  Also, I tend to vary the pace a fair bit to see how the optical HR responds.

Getting the run started up was pretty quick and easy.  Despite being in beta and not yet having assisted GPS enabled, it found GPS signal in a few seconds.  And about 10-15 seconds later it locked onto my heart rate.

Oh, and sorry for the fuzzy photos – I sometimes forget the focal length on the action cams isn’t quite as close as I want it to be.

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Next, I headed out for a short warm-up before eventually doing a couple of harder sprints.  The HR and instant pace appeared to track pretty well.  I was comparing it against three other HR sensors and GPS units.

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On the pace side, I recorded some video that you’ll see within the hour as well – so check back for that!

I could change data fields as expected by pressing the up/down buttons, which iterates through my data fields. For example, in the above photo I’ve got my HR shown with the HR zone (and time of run).  While below I’ve got my instant pace up top, average pace in the middle, and distance down below.

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After wrapping up the run, I gathered up the data from all four units and plopped it into the DCR Analyzer to see how things looked.  You can look at the link here. First up is the GPS side of things. The M430 uses a SIRF GPS chipset, which is a bit different than the M400.  Though, it doesn’t have GLONASS.

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At a high level, things did quite well.  Note that at times I had placed both the Fenix3 and FR935 on my Spibelt (a waist belt), since I was primarily using them to capture HR data from straps, not GPS data. Thus things could be slightly impacted on GPS for those units.

If we zoom in on some of the corners, all the units track very closely – which is solid.

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In particular this bridge section, where the Polar M430 was actually the most correct (in the upper right corner) on where I went:

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So nothing sticks out at first on a basic GPS run.  But again, this is just one run, and a fairly short one at that. Still, it’s a good starting point.

Next, we’ve got the HR side of things.  In this case, I had some wonkiness on both the TICKR HR strap and the Scosche in the first few minutes. I ended up licking the HR strap and that immediately solved that, and then I moved the Scosche a tiny bit and that solved that.  Not sure what was up there.

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In any event, beyond that, all the units actually matched really well for the remainder of the run for the most part.  I see one oddity again later on during a bit of a harder interval I did with the Scosche when I was filming (which can impact things), but nothing significant.  And the Polar M430 tracked well across the stops and starts too – something I did a few times within the run for exactly this purpose.  Actually, all the units tracked those starts and stops well.  And note, the above data is *not* smoothed, it’s straight 1-second recording.

Oh – and while the above charts are from the DCR Analyzer, you can certainly view the run on Polar Flow as well:

PolarFlow

The run will automatically sync via Bluetooth Smart when you open the app up, or you can just plug it in via USB to your computer.

And finally – keep in mind that the above GPS/HR data is beta data on the M430.  Thus, you might see some things they’re still working on (especially around HR).  But for being a month out, it’s not too shabby.

Wrap-Up:

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Overall this is a nice, but fully expected, upgrade of the M400.  It modernizes it in terms of baseline specs, though doesn’t really push the boundaries in any major way.  The added long-battery life modes for GPS activities are pretty cool however, and definitely unique in the segment.

As always, we’ll have to see on both the optical HR sensor and GPS performance as it gets closer to final production firmware and hardware.  And that’s fine; there’s plenty of time to do that.  The current shipping timeframe for the M430 is in May, and I don’t see any reason that won’t be hit.  Things are pretty close as it stands today for the beta unit I tried.

The only concern I have is really the pricing.  At $229/€229, it’s in a bit of an odd spot.  When Polar first released the M400 – they did so at a price that significantly undercut Garmin’s price for a mid-range watch.  That’s the sole reason the M400 did as well as it did: It was incredible value for the money.  It was originally priced at $179USD, but floats around $125 these days.  At launch that was $80 less than Garmin’s competitor FR220 at the time. But now with the M430, they’re only $20 less than the Vivoactive HR, which has far more features (albeit not structured workouts), plus apps.  That’s a tougher sell.

I think had they gone with $199, they’d be in a fairly solid position.  That’d match the less-featured Garmin FR35 when not on sale, as well as the mixed-featured Fitbit Blaze.  Not to mention upcoming Android Wear options like the Misfit Vapor priced at $200, or the very competitively priced TomTom Spark 3.  I fear Polar may have forgotten what made the M400 popular: Its price.

Still – if you’re looking at mid-range running watches, and especially ones with structured training plans – there’s no better value in the ballpark than the M430 (or the M400 if you don’t care about optical).  And Polar did do a good job at making precisely the updates that folks wanted to see in an M400 successor.

With that – stay tuned for a full in-depth review down the road.  Thanks for reading!

Update: You can now pre-order the M430 from Clever Training.  DCR readers get 10% off using DCR coupon code DCR10BTF.  That helps support the site and makes you awesome (or more awesome, if you were already awesome).

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129 Comments

  1. It’s a pity that there is no changeable straps

  2. Einhard Janke

    “Firmware Updates Available via Bluetooth Smart: First Polar watch that needs no desktop computer at all”

    I think the M600 was the first.

  3. Rob

    seems the a-gps is provided by sirf rather than u-blox, or whatever it was called on the m400. That can only be a good thing. Saying that, as it stands today, my m400 holds up well to my V800 most places apart from in the city. I’ll probably buy this, but may just hold out for the next triathlon watch.

  4. Juha Tuomola

    You mentioned a word stretchy when you talked about the wrist strap. Have you tried the M400 in white color? It is more flexible and rubbery-feeling than the black version that you had on your M400 review. I was just thinking could the case be the same with M430: White differs from the other colors…If that is the case, those holes in the strap could make this new strap break more easily like they did on RS300X…

  5. Lindsey

    Hi, looks like a good unit. How does this watch compare to the Garmin 235 in terms of running capabilities? Thanks.

  6. Sam

    My M400 is really slow to update running pace. So much so it is almost useless for interval training when you want to hit a specific pace (my old garmin with a foot pod was much better at this). Any idea if they’ve done anything to address this?

    • Rob

      Sam, i think any device relying purely on gps for pace will be woefully inadequate on short intervals. I use Polar’s stride sensor which works well for short intervals say up-to 500m, any longer and gps does becomes acceptable if you set a lap distance of say half a mile.

      have just ordered the much smaller and lighter milestone pod as this should now be supported by polar’s m400/v800 watches

    • YouTube just finished processing my video on it, which includes responsiveness in instant pace (both at-pace to stop, and at-pace stability): link to youtube.com

    • JR

      Rob is right. If you’re doing short intervals and you want your pace to be accurate, you should go to the track. GPS lacks the distance accuracy (nevermind the pace accuracy) necessary for short intervals. So do footpods, actually. Being off by a couple of seconds on a 400 is an eternity, and that’s the best a footpod can do. Just glance at your split times as you go through 200 meters, and you should get pretty good at hitting your paces with practice. That’s how elites do it.

      GPS can be okay for longer intervals like mile repeats. Just use current lap average pace if you want help with those.

    • Mr T

      Some running paths have 1/4 or 1/2 markers if a track isn’t accessible

    • I have the same issue with the M400. When doing 200 metres intervals, it will complain for the first 100 metres that I’m going too slow. Whereas my Garmin 310xt almost immediately has the right pace measured.
      And after the 200 metres interval complain that I’m going too fast for 50-70 metres. ;-)

    • The Running Daddy

      Maybe you have Heart rate zone based intervals? If not and you really have peace based intervals then there’s something wrong with your unit. Polars are dealing with tempo change immediately, way faster than Garmins

    • marathonman

      Be interested to hear whether the milestone pod works with V800 as a footpod and also records all the other metrics offline. Have you had a chance to test it yet with V800?

  7. RaksiA

    Just bought M400, I hope the developers will still support the firmware.

    • Scott

      I wouldn’t stress, the fimware is pretty solid… now. You’re just lucky you didn’t buy one when it first came out, it took over a year before the M400 became a device I’d actually recommend to others. Now, no problems at all.

  8. NIKOS

    well, which is better watch tomtom runner 3 or M430 ?

  9. Every time I see the Polar Flow site I remember just how good those HR graphs are with the colouring, and Polar’s data visualisation generally compared to Garmin (which sucks). Garmin show the same data but (to me) there is far less actionable information there. Nice to see Polar start updating their older devices, this seems a great addition and all the choices certainly reflect the Polar focus on actual training and getting better at sport or getting fitter. Garmin lack that focus and while they produce great devices for geeks like me, I can’t say hand on heart that they are as good as Polar when viewed as training tools.
    I miss Polar, but will be sticking with Garmin sadly because I don’t need a training tool, I want a training toy :)

  10. Nathan B

    This is a nice looking watch, and the fact that Polar have been so impressive with their updates on the M400 would definitely be a factor in considering this as my next purchase.

    Ray, can you see any reason why Garmin/Polar/Suunto aren’t incorporating wireless charging into their watches? The Apple Watch and a number of Android Wear watches have it included. Seems like it would solve the port issue.

    • That very question is on my short list for some in-person meetings with those companies over the coming days/weeks.

    • JR

      My guess would be added size, which is more important in a watch than a phone, and the slow speed of inductive charging, which is more significant in devices that people are increasingly expecting to wear 24/7.

    • Shamir Dasgupta

      My guess is if they include wireless charging they will have to remove the physical port. Which means any software update will have to install via bluetooth or WiFi. While the Apple watch has great wireless charging, it takes an eternity when the watchOS needs update (and you will have to keep it on the charger).

  11. Chris

    Ray
    Does the 430 do run pace from foot pod with distance from the GPS? The existing Polar products don’t and it is a weakness, particularly as accelerometer tech in the pods is progressing so quickly…
    Many thanks

  12. Myria

    I sometimes think I’m the only one who never had any problems with the M400’s charging port. Years later, swimming, showers, and all, and mine is just fine. I dunno.

    Anyway, seems like a nice, if minor, upgrade, the vibration alerts and stopwatch really being the only two new features I really would like — the lack of a stopwatch on the M400 always has puzzled me. I really wish they would produce versions of these newer watches without the optical HR, I’ve yet to see one that wasn’t horrifically inaccurate and laggy as hell in a gym environment. Even if they could solve the light-tight issue, there’s just no way around the lag issue when you’re measuring capillary pulse.

    • Yeah on the charging port, I suspect that if you shower after every workout – that likely solves it. Meaning most corrosion comes from salt water or salty water (aka sweat). Sometimes folks will use the watch during a workout, but then not take it into the shower. Over time, it’s what does it in.

      As a general rule of thumb, I always shower with my watches afterwards.

    • Alexandre Nobre

      I’m with you. My m400 is the one without the port cover. I wash it daily before showering, as this gives me the ability to also wash the strap.

      I can’t think how gross those groves get for people who don’t wash their watches frequently. Yuck.

    • James Kreuziger

      I’ve never taken my M400 into the shower. I don’t swim, so that’s out. I have the one with the cover over the port. I regularly wash the watch with an old toothbrush, soap and water, including the USB port. I will dry off the watch with a towel, then blow out the USB port with canned air.

      The only times I have had problems with the port is when I haven’t cleaned it in a while, and I won’t be able sync. Giving it a good scrub always solves the problem.

      Yes, the grooves in band can get kind of skanky if you don’t clean it. I try not to let it get that bad.

    • Skivandal

      Akso likr to join the ‘never had a problem with the usb’ club.

      Bought shortly after it was released. Swim, run, even windsurf witj it. Far from fastidious with any cleaning regime of the watch.

      Never hsd any problems. Even the white strap and all is stil looking pretty white still.

    • Thijs Rieken

      I usually clean my watch with my wet towel after showering, that does the trick for me as much as keeping it clean is concerned.

    • JamesA

      Its best to cut the cover off. I had my M400 with the cover repaired on warranty and it came back with a new strap less the cover. It has worked much better without the cover. I guess that the problem is more to do with drying than with getting wet. I just rinse it after every run.

  13. Adam

    Exactly….if you could have the Garmin hardware, but Polar’s software, it would be ideal.

  14. Eduan

    No basic navigation? Like bread crumb trail following? Would be awesome of it does! Don’t need all the bells and whistles of a fenix, or ambit, or…

  15. Martin

    Ray, display in M430 is the same as in M400?
    Featurewise, I see any significant differences between M200 and M430 – do I miss something?
    Only support of HR strap?

    • The display is the same – still 128x128px. But at least easily readable.

      When you compare it to the M200, things like the display really stick out to me. The display on the M200 is kinda like an old calculator. :)

      It supports HR straps via BLE, as well as running footpods.

  16. Yonah

    I agree with Ray on the price point – If I am considering this watch for vs the M600 at $329 (especially as the latter gets closer to being a year old and starts getting discounted) – I’m probably going to opt for the M600. $150 or $180 might have been a better starting point.

    I am still rocking a 3-year old original loop, and one of the things I like about it is he magentic charging/sync cable. They also have the same one on the M600, and I also believe it’s compatible with the V800 as well – so why wouldn’t polar keep using that connector? I don’t mind the proprietary connector, but at least be consistent.

  17. Maciej

    Is there ‘tap to lap’ feature?

  18. Don

    I’d be interested in knowing if Polar has stepped up and fixed some of the shortcomings of the m200 and Polar Flow with the m430. The fact that the m430 is released less than six months after the m200 suggests to me that it is a clean up effort on the m200 more than an updated m400.

    Specifically:
    – Does the sleep monitor allow for manual time to bed/get up or is it even close to predicting those now? It currently misses 2-3 hours per night in predicting bed time for me and often posts a ‘monitor not worn’ error in the middle of the night as if you woke up, took the monitor off and then put it back on while you were asleep.
    – Can the data on m430 be downloaded and viewed on your desktop or phone without an internet connection to the Polar Flow site? If you are in a remote location without internet or if the Polar server is down, which happened recently, your recent data is locked on your wrist and your historical data is completely unavailable.
    – Can the wrist straps be changed? Or is it an admission that those on the m200 are already stretching out after a couple of months of use and were a bad idea.
    – How tight does the m430 have to be tightened to get a reliable heart rate? I’ve found that I have to really tighten the m200 to get a steady accurate reading.
    – You’ve mentioned that sports profiles are best set with a desktop. I agree. But I’ve also found that my m200 regularly ‘forgets’ some of the settings on some profiles and I have to resync it each time. Specifically, I really don’t need gps on indoor workouts Polar.
    – Have weekly totals in Polar Flow been fixed yet? This is more about the software than watch, but without the software, the watch is affected. I regularly find a different total for calories burned on the week view and month view despite this being a sum of the same seven daily numbers. I’ve also found that if you enter a workout manually in Flow it doesn’t show up in your weekly calorie totals for some reason.

    I acknowledge that it appears I am being very critical of Polar right out of the gate on the new m430. However, there is nothing above that I didn’t send to Polar first about the m200 and the Flow software they either denied or dismissed in responding to me.

  19. Jared S

    I have the M400, but it generally sits on the shelf after I picked up the Suunto Ambit 2S. Syncing with my phone worked less than half the time (admittedly this is probably more of an Android problem). And, I do some hiking & backpacking and with the M400, but I can’t setup a point to navigate to, or even view my current position in units other than longitude & latitude (which I find ironic given the watch’s origin is European). The one feature I miss from the M400 is the inactivity alerts.

    • Mario Talavera

      Jared,

      As an Android/M400 user, I hear your sync pain. This workaround works for me. First, sync your activity in airplane mode. Flow will ask if it can turn Bluetooth on, say yes. After you can see the doughnut graph update on Flow, get out of airplane mode and keep Flow open. Ta-da!

      No USB issues in 2+ years…

  20. The Dark Passenger

    Thankfully it seems to target the quickly disappearing group of “serious” runners which in general couldnt care less of the great majority of the gymmicks that have been thrown out there as of late, and which generally tend not to make one a faster runner….

    A UK age group top guy i know (he is 53 and he just ran a 16’30” 5k) is still running with a 1980 style Casio….

  21. Alan

    Does this attach to the H7? Will a T31coded 5ghz heart rate transmitter work with it in the water?
    Alan

    • Rob

      H7 yes for Bluetooth 2.4ghz , no for 5ghz

    • BartW

      Attach to H7: Yes (Only Bluetooth Smart (2.4 GHz) NOT 5kHz )
      Attach to T31: NO
      Attach to H10: Yes (Only Bluetooth Smart (2.4 GHz) NOT 5kHz )
      5kHz is needed for realtime underwater, the M430 doesn’t have this receiver.

      Quote from Ray (from the main post)
      And while you can use the new Polar H10 HR strap with it, it doesn’t have support for the analog heart (=5kHz) rate signal from a strap underwater, nor the ability to transfer stored/recorded activities from the Polar H10. For that, you’d need to use the Polar Beat app on your mobile phone.

  22. Peter

    Thanks a lot for the great review, Ray!
    Did you have time to test the optical heart rate sensor underwater for swimming? Would be a huge addition to the watch if it works reliably!

  23. Mirko Surf&Run

    Funny, a cheap watch that performs just as well as the other more expensive watches. Glad to see that this times the Suunto Spartan Wrist HR behaves well.

  24. Rand

    You mentioned 24/7 heart rate monitoring might be coming to Polar devices in Q3? Is this a for sure thing? This is what has held me back from getting Polar devices instead of Garmin.

    • Robert B.

      In my experience if Polar says it will happen, it will, just never on the initially forecasted time.

    • TimFr

      Agreed. While people have given accolades to Polar for keeping the M400 continually updated, in reality, it just appears that way because it takes them so long to release firmware updates. They announced in January 2015 that they would introduce wrist based cadence and measurement units to the M400. It took them a year until Jan 2016 to release the cadenence measurement and then another year until Jan 2017 before the speed based measurements were done.

    • Brent

      We should wait till the product is released with all features promised. Buying right away only emboldens companies like Polar who take FOREVER to do even simple things e.g. Strava integration.

    • I would tweak that slightly:

      Purchase a product based on whether or not it has the features you want today, not based on future promises. While some companies are good with promises…others less so (either through delays or just not doing it).

  25. Peter

    Inductive/wireless charging is great but it is inefficient transfer of power and does heat batteries during the process. Hot batteries and durability longevity don’t go together
    well with non removable batteries unfortunately.

  26. Alan

    I have the A300 which luckily still works with the T31coded strap (and probably the new H10) in the pool. Old school, I like to see my heart rate while I swim. So the lack of this feature here is a disappointment.
    The standard USB charging of the A300 is really very good. It lasts for weeks, can be plugged in anywhere. And the male end on the watch has no issues with water. I wonder why they didn’t use that for the M430?

    Seems so easy to add the 5ghz into the product, and one wonders why they didn’t.

  27. Jan

    As owner of Garmin swim and Polar m400 I was hoping for good outdoor and indoor swimming features with heartrate. Unfortunately not in this watch.

  28. David Olanders

    Does it have music control?

  29. huja

    As you said, seems like all the tweaks/improvements over the M400 make sense. However after three years, would have hoped it moved the needle more. Would have liked to see a music player included. Polar just sent me a refurbished M400 in February to replace my unit that had a failing battery so no hurry to buy the M430.

  30. Adam Mazurkiewicz

    From my experience your criticism of the use of standard USB port in sports watch is exaggerated.

    I use my Polar M400 with micro USB daily for about 2 years now. I bike every day with it, swim 3 times a week, run, play tennis. I charge it at night everyday or every 2 days, depending on how much GPS enabled sport profiles I use. Micro USB is working flawless, the only issue for me is that connecting a cable requires precision that is hard for me late at night.

    In fact I would even say I am really suprised how durable micro USB connection in M400 has proved in my unit as well as the whole unit. My friends Garmins have failed long time ago ;-)

    • One only needs to read the comments of the M400 to see the reality of the situation. Or…just ask Polar themselves. They’d agree. ;)

    • huja

      I think it’s a YMMV situation. The batch of ports in your particular M400; how much you sweat; how salty your sweat is; how diligent you are about keeping the port clean and dried before connecting, etc. I sent my unit in twice for repair. In the same time my wife’s M400 has had no issues.

    • Adam Mazurkiewicz

      Well, I’m just saying that in my case, I prefer standard USB so I don’t have to worry about some custom plug cable being eaten by my dog and just use some phone charger when in need… And I have never washed my unit, swimming and showering in it seems to be enough.

  31. TimFr

    Nice upgrade on everything but the price. The vivoactive HR is actually cheaper than this and has a barometric altimeter and apps, I suspect market forces will cause the price of this to drop within a few months.

  32. Ferenc Kumin

    Does it broadcast heart rate eia BLE as a strap would do to use with e.g. a bike computer like m450?

    • Trevor Feeney

      I’m also wondering about HR broadcast. Would be disappointing if it didn’t, especially as the Vivoactive does.

    • Trevor Feeney

      I asked Polar and they said it doesn’t. That’s a big miss for me and a step towards the Vivoactive HR.

  33. Keks

    thx for the review, good work as always!
    but i have a question regarding the Fitness Test… i remember there are several diffrent versions on multiple devices from Polar. For example, if i remember correctly the m400 involves only sitting on the couch whereas the V800 lets you sit/stand and measures the impact on your hr. Which version is implemented in the m430?

    and how strong is the vibration alarm? can you set a lvl of vibration like the m400 has a setting for volume?

    btw, did you notice that polar updated the look of the graphs in flow? To my suprise they are still busy implementing and changing functions in flow (the good way, didnt see something that went bad in the last 4 months)

    • Simon B

      Hi. The is no orthostatic test on the M430, only the Polar Fitness Test (the Couch test)

    • Keks

      Thx! i couldnt remember the name… well the couch test is pretty useless. But hey marketing :D maybe i will upgrade to the m430… it bothers me that i cant sync the m400 with my phone.

  34. Mark Sperry

    Just curious why not have the in depth reviews of the Tom Tom Spark 3 and the Tom Tom Adventurer that are already available to purchase before reviewing these that are not available yet?

    • That’s a really good question, glad you asked. :)

      It’s actually simple: This isn’t a review. Rather, it’s just a first look/hands-on post. I know some media outlets might try and pass this off as a review, but I don’t.

      You can find my similarly sized post here for the TomTom Spark 3 and Adventurer: link to dcrainmaker.com

      That was also done on launch day, based on minimal time with a watch. Oddly enough, in the TomTom case, I actually have tons of runs/rides with it since…though, I just need to get my review written. :(

      Then you might ask – why is it that two recent legit reviews came out on the day of announcement: The Wahoo BOLT and the Garmin FR935?

      Easy: They got me units 3-4 weeks in advance…*AND*…they planned to ship on/about announcement day.

      Neither Polar or TomTom have achieved that threshold with these products. And that’s really what it comes down to. If a company is able to get me products 3-4 weeks out (two in a worst case scenario for GPS, maybe a week for a simple fitness/activity tracker), I can get a legit review done on release day. But if I don’t get a unit till the day before, or if the unit isn’t expected to ship for another month or so – then I won’t do an in-depth review.

      Once that happens, then that product is at the mercy of everything else competing for time, namely, new announcements. For example, my review post on the Xplova X5 unit took a backseat this week to getting this very Polar M430 ‘first look’ post out. The M430 was time sensitive, the X5 was not.

      Hope that helps!

  35. Jaime

    One info I miss is if the m430 has a barometric altimeter or only through GPS
    For trail activities, my V800 is excellent in that respect

  36. Sheh

    Polar says 24×7 hbm would be available in Q3. I believe it would also involve accommodating this feature in the Flow. What I want to see is, with their Sleep Plus, Polar would be able to automatically detect and record the resting heart rate and then show the weekly/monthly trend. Ray, would you be able to get more insights on this from Polar?

    • Yeah, Polar is holding off on releasing more details on their sleep things until later this year. :-/

    • Adam

      Hi Sheh, do you have a link to that info about 24/7 hr? Would be interested to read about it. I remember that there was a “Sleep Analysis” tab in one of the screenshots when Ray reviewed the Polar Balance scale, but nothing was ever released for it.

      link to media.dcrainmaker.com

    • Sheh

      Adam, I’m sorry, in regards to 24/7 hb availability in Q3, I’m just quoting what Ray has written in his above review on the beta unit. I believe there are many requests out there to be able to track resting heart rate with ease and see the trending in Flow once we synced our data. We can then see our training activity versus sleep versus resting heart rate and then see how all of these affect our performance on any particular day. Of course there are other factors too that would affect our performance but still there would be some decent data from Polar to start with. Come on, Polar, bring more excitement, please.

    • tfk

      source polar:

      Sleep Plus–

      Most adults need eight hours of sleep, but sleep needs vary from person to person. It is recommended that adults get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Your sleep needs are affected by several factors like individual characteristics, training load, mental stress, body’s condition and possible sleep debt.

      Polar Sleep Plus automatically detects the timing, amount, and quality of your sleep based on your wrist movements.
      •Sleep time shows the total time between when you fell asleep and when you wake up.
      •Actual sleep shows how much of your sleep time was actually spent asleep.
      •Interruptions show you how much time you spent awake during the night.
      •Sleep continuity tells you how continuous your sleep was on a scale of 1-5, where 5 reflects uninterrupted sleep. The lower the value the more fragmented your sleep was.

      You can set your preferred sleep time to define how long you aim to sleep every night. You can also rate your sleep. You’ll receive feedback on how you slept based on your sleep data, your preferred sleep time and your sleep rating.

      Monitor your long-term sleeping patterns in Polar Flow. By following your sleep patterns you can see if they’re affected by any changes in your daily life and find the right balance of rest, daily activity and training.

  37. Dirk Ronsmans

    Too bad they didn’t add 24/7 HR tracking, I would love it even more with that even with reduced battery life then.
    But really like that they added vibration alerts (running with music and checking your alerts all the time is a drag!)

    One to watch when my current M400 dies but hoping for yet another one with also all day tracking

    • refra1n

      Just checked the Polar website (AU) which states:
      “Polar M430 is a GPS running watch with wrist-based heart rate, advanced training features and 24/7 activity tracking — a top-level watch for runners who want more.”

      So looks like they might launch with 24/7 activity tracking available?!

      As an ex-M400 owner (sold it while it was still popular and in good condition), I’m very keen to get my hands on the M430 and all it’s improvements.

      Thanks DCR keep up the great work!

    • Ryan M.

      It is launching with 24/7 activity tracking (steps/distance), but not heart rate.

    • refra1n

      Ok thanks for clarifying.. will keep an eye on how this feature operates upon release.

  38. Tomi

    Great review again! Have you compared the total distance with your 5K runs. I have M400 and I am curious to know how accurate it is. Seems that the only remarkable difference is the wrist HR measurement so I will wait for the upgrade of V800.

  39. Rhod

    Ray, thanks as always for your insights. Was holding out for the next gen of polar devices so this could be great. Any news on a V800 successor? Or does this have more than just the fitness test? That would mean I hang on a bit longer. Cheers

  40. Hi All-

    Just as a quick update, Clever Training now has listings for the M430, for those that want to pre-order it. Delivery planned for May, and based on me chatting with Polar today in-person, that appears on track.

    You can pre-order here link to clevertraining.com and then don’t forget to use the DCR coupon code DCR10BTF to save 10%. All of which supports the site here, I appreciate it!

  41. Graham

    Hi Ray. Any changes with the display of text /app notifications on the M430? Vibration alerts are a big step in the right direction but can you read the whole message on the watch? I find it so frustrating that I know I have a message and I know who from but I can’t see more than the first few words on my M400.

    • At present the same, just the truncated version. Perhaps something will change by release.

    • w00ha

      Wearing a V800( >1.5 j) , the same layout/display, I find it worse that there are no icons for missed calls or messages .
      There is a BT(lost connection), alarm set, night mode, airplane icon, but no missed events of any kind.
      Also no auto-backlite on a message for a few seconds.

      That could all be done in software…easy ;)

  42. Jens

    Hi!

    With the Sport Profiles, do you think it would be a good choice for a gym rat too?

    Thnx for keeping us informed :)

    • Skivandal

      Use my m400 in the gym. One of the things i really like is the custom displays. So if you want to time intervals inbetween sets or reps it is super easy to have hr and and lap time as the display for instance.
      Also with all the profiles you could have different ones for legs days, chest days etc, if you wanted to split them out.
      They have stacks of profiles so ‘Strength’ for arms. ‘Core’ for core and the maybe use ‘Finnish Baseball’ as the legs session. Plus now there are loads of LES MILLS profiles what ever they are. A dozen or more.

    • Skivandal

      See pic

  43. grzeg1

    How strong are vibration alerts in comparison to V800? In V800 they’re too weak but together with beeps they’re recognizable.
    Can you confirm that M430 is mute, i.e. does not have a beeper at all?

  44. Hans

    Hi Ray,

    Would it be possible to update the initial M430 with the 24/7 HR in Q3 by a simple software update or is the 24/7 only available in the new devices from Q3?

    Regards,
    Hans

  45. David

    Tnx for the hands on. Seems like a nice upgrade for my M400 which I like very much.

    On the watch faces Ray, the one with the circular progress bar. What does the number under the date mean? (I think it’s 11) Is it the number of steps ?
    Is there a watch face with number of steps or calories?

    Tnx, David.

    • Mike@PolarUSA

      If you’re referring to the initial image at the top of the page, then what you are looking at is the time in a 24 hour format. In this circumstance, the time is 5:44 pm.

      There is no watch face for the M430 that displays steps or calories. – Mike@PolarUSA

    • Graham

      Mike, I think David is referring to the video at time 3min 11secs. The watch face has a circle around the outside which I’m guessing represents the amount of activity??? A bit like the M200??? Has this replaced the one M400 watch face with the bar that shows activity? I have that one set as my default so I’ll be interested in having a replacement that shows activity. Is it the only one showing your % activity for the day?

    • Mike@PolarUSA

      There are 2 watch faces that show activity achieved. The one you are referring to (with the circle around the time) is indeed one of them. There is another (that is ironically that initial image at the top of the page) that displays it as well. For that watch face, the time displayed is shaded differently relative to the amount of activity recorded – Mike@PolarUSA

    • David

      Tnx for the clarification Mike.

      Would it be possible to have a watch face that goes further as 100% with regards to activity. Cuz now @ 100% its full, but beyond 100% you have no visual difference on the watch face … no indication on 125, 150, 200% …
      A watchface with the number of steps would also be nice ;-)

  46. Is it possible to charge the M430 while continuing to track the activity or does it halt the activity a la the Garmin 920XT?

  47. Pedro

    How does crossfit training work?
    Good readings or mistakes like tom tom and mio link.

    • Adam

      Pedro,

      Based on experience, any wrist based optical HRs are be horrible for things like CrossFit because of the movements. You’d be better off using the new Polar H10 for a CrossFit workout, then sync to Polar Beat afterwards as it can record a workout without your phone/tracker. You could still use the M430 for all day tracking and steady state / running type activities.

  48. Lasse

    Hi Ray and others

    Thank you for an other useful review
    I have been testing a lot of optical heart rate monitors over time including the Polar M430 and to me they usually work fine while resting or at low intensities, but as soon as the intensity goes up, they seem to fail and calculate the hear rate 15-20 beats above the actual heart rate (measured via heart rate strap).
    Have you had similar problems? I have an feeling that it has to do with cold weater (i live in demnark som the last 6 months have been cold). The optical sensors seem to work better under warm conditions (I do wear them tight and directly on the skin).

  49. Josh.

    Do the smart notifications come thru DURING activity or only phone calls? This is one thing I do not care for about the m400/v800.

  50. Kelli

    Just curious -Anyone else having trouble finding Polar products in stores? Tried 2 Best Buy’s today and they no longer have them in-store My Target got rid of Polar & Dicks barely had inventory
    Last time I was there. Garmin & Fitbit however have large prominent displays everywhere.

    • Skivandal

      Yes i think we have the same thing happening in the UK. No sign of the new stuff (M430 or M460) in the channels, and getting hold of M400 or M450 without the bundled HR strap is tricky.

    • Pedro

      I can not find bracelet polar m400

  51. KH C Bon

    In terms of running pace zone lock, whats the differences between M400, M430 and V800? thx

  52. Shane

    HI all- I had a Peak (loved biometrics/sleep patterns) & are looking for a replacement. I do cardio classes, weights, elyptical, indoor cycle, walking/hiking & watch my sleep patterns. I push HR to 175 during gym & so need reliable HR. Still have my old F11 (hate chest straps). I can’t decide between polar m430 or vivoactive HR. What would u recommend?

  53. Nicole

    Does the m430 still connect with other Polar HR bands besides the H10 (like the H7 Bluetooth that comes with the m400)? I really like the idea of losing the chest strap and using the optical, but in the winter when I’m wearing long sleeves/jackets, I usually place my watch over my sleeve, which obviously then loses the optical capabilities. Will it also still connect with the Bluetooth stride sensor? I appreciate Polar’s attempt to add the internal wrist-based accelerometer, but as a slower, back of the pack runner, I have yet to find an accelerometer that accurately reads my pace (they always tell me I’m running much faster than I am), so I tend to still use my footpod with my m400 for treadmill runs.